The Wizard of Oz (1939 - DVD)
A timeless classic I've seen many times and probably everyone else has seen multiple times by now. I'm not sure I even have a unique perspective to offer as I rewatched this during a period of mourning over the loss of my beloved cat, Pepper, and I just felt like I needed to revisit something I knew for a fact that I enjoyed rather than risk another Nacho Libre.
Great songs, memorable characters, colorful settings - I may not necessarily agree with the movie's moral that you're better off staying at home than adventuring into the unknown world, but I tend not to think about it too critically. When I was a kid, I took the special effects in this movie for granted. Now, I'm especially impressed with things like the tornado (can you believe it was a cloth sock and not a real tornado?), the Scarecrow's prosthetics making it look like his head really is made out of a bag, and the flying monkey that seems almost more believable that they found a real monkey that looks like that than it being a human in makeup.
One complaint I've seen in recent times is that Dorothy is wussier than she was in the books, but I feel part of that is pop culture focusing a lot on her moments of weakness and yelling, "Auntie Em!" She definitely has her strengths in standing up to the Wizard and Cowardly Lion, and I don't seriously blame her for being terrified of the Wicked Witch. I think almost every kid who sees this movie is, and I still find her unsettling as an adult.
Also, I'm probably not the first one to make this observation, but does anyone else think that Glinda intentionally manipulated Dorothy into beating the Wicked Witch and that thing about not telling her about the shoes was because she wouldn't believe her was bull?
ReBoot: The Definitive Mainframe Edition (1994 - DVD)
This show is one of the biggest "near-misses" I've ever experienced. It starts off a bit oddly and meanders for awhile, but once it gets its footing, it was one of the best rollercoaster rides of an animated program I'd ever been on, until... a misguided complete change of tone and style in the middle of Season 3 threw the rollercoaster off the tracks and landed with a resounding thud.
I know that I have a tendency to be biased in favor of cartoons being comedic rather than dark and serious, but I really do think ReBoot was at its best when it focused on comedy, and up until Season 3's big plot twist, it was pretty darn good at balancing comedy with "Holy Fuck!" moments. Somebody should have realized that changing the characters, setting, and tone almost entirely, and bashing morals like, "You shouldn't play video games. You should spend that time with your family instead" over people's heads was not the smartest idea in the world.
The show struggles to regain its footing from that moment on, and while it does improve again eventually, it's more like a bumpy ride up and down uneven hills than a rollercoaster and, despite a whimsically awesome Pirates of Penzance parody at the end of Season 3, it never quite reaches the level of its best Season 1 and 2 episodes ever again. And then the series ends on a cliffhanger because it was canceled before it was finished.
What about everything before the big change? Well, like I said, it's quite a thrill ride and possibly worth recommending not only for this being historically significant as the first computer animated television show, but for the great characters, writing, humor, surreal setting, and references that adults as well as kids will love. (This show parodied the William Shatner "Rocketman" thing, years before Family Guy did, and it's the only thing other than "the internet" that I've seen make fun of, "Let's try spinning! That's a good trick!")
Of particular note are episodes "Bad Bob", a Mad Max/Road Warrior parody that's best described as "pure unadulterated fun", and "Talent Night", a birthday episode that completely breaks out of the show's norms in ways that cartoons almost never do.
While ReBoot always carries an undertone of "video games are bad", there are ways even video game enthusiasts can deal with that. It can, for example, be interpreted as the games from the enemy characters' point of view.
Is the animation a little dated? Maybe. But it significantly improves over the series' run and has moments of awe. The big space battle at the end of Season 2 would've been prohibitively costly to do with hand-drawn animation. That's not to say that this show proves 3D should completely replace 2D animation, but that it earned its place in the world.
Unfortunately, it still left me with mixed feelings. I suppose any greatness at all is worth experiencing, but disappointment on this level reflects poorly on the whole product and can cloud a recommendation. Since this show had both 5-star and 1-star episodes, my score will land directly in the middle.
Take This To Your Grave (2003 - Digital Album)
Artist: Fall Out Boy
The first time I ever heard about Fall Out Boy was back in the early 2000's when I saw people on message boards making fun of little kids going to see "their first Fall Out Boy concert", and because back then I thought Fall Out Boy was just a fictitious character from The Simpsons universe, I was understandably confused - thinking this was some obscure Simpsons joke I wasn't getting because I didn't have the best familiarity with the show.
Now that I've actually listened to their debut album, I can understand that sentiment a little better (sadly, no actual Simpsons references aside from the band's name). Every song on this album sounds the same, to the point that if I'm not having a hard time understanding what they're saying, I'm having a hard time understanding how they feel about it. The lyrics are extremely cynical, but all sung in this style that's completely lacking any kind of emotion.
One song has lyrics that go, "I want to hate you half as much as I hate myself, but you know that I could crush you with my voice". I'm kinda thinking that's a severe overestimation. Another song laments, "And when it all goes to hell, will you be able to tell me sorry with a straight face." My answer is, will we even know when it all goes to hell if you sound so indifferent to everything?
I will concede that "Dead On Arrival" is rather catchy, and the only song I can clearly remember long after having last listened to the album, but when everything else sounded so similar, does it even matter?
People were complaining this past year that Fall Out Boy didn't save rock and roll (whatever that means). Yeah, I'm not surprised. I'm not sure anyone else should've been.